All posts by Paul J. McAndrew, Jr.

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Ports of Tacoma and Seattle Urge Immediate PMA-ILWU Contract Resolution

Today’s post comes from guest author Kit Case, from Causey Law Firm.

The Port of Seattle issued a statement on February 12, 2015 urging the PMA and ILWU to reach a resolution to their contract dispute:

In light of US West Coast ports’ limited activity this weekend, the ports of Seattle and Tacoma continue to press the Pacific Maritime Association and International Longshore and Warehouse Union to resolve the impasse in contract negotiations.

The ports do not have a seat at the negotiating table, however we have been exercising the limited options available to try to mitigate impacts on our customers and to keep cargo moving.

We share the frustration of the farmers, manufacturers, retailers, truckers and warehouse and distribution operators, who are suffering collateral damage as they continue to lose billions of dollars and lay off employees.

A lockout or strike would put even more stress on the working people throughout our state who rely on ports for their livelihood.

Taken together, marine cargo operations in Tacoma and Seattle support more than 48,000 jobs across the region and provide a critical gateway for the export of Washington state products to Asia.

This protracted negotiation is resulting in widespread economic damage and will have a lasting impact on our state’s economy.

We risk losing our role as a critical gateway as shippers seek alternatives to West Coast ports.

gCaptain reported on the weekend suspension of cargo loading and unloading at west coast ports, noting that the Pacific Maritime Association said that terminal yard, rail and gate operations at the ports, which handle nearly half of U.S. maritime trade and more than 70 percent of imports from Asia, would go on at the discretion of terminal operators through the weekend.  gCaptain quoted a statement from the PMA: “In light of ongoing union slowdowns up and down the coast which have brought the ports almost to a standstill, PMA member companies finally have concluded that they will no longer continue to pay workers premium pay for diminished productivity.”

gCaptain’s report continued:

Announcement of the weekend suspension came two days after the chief labor negotiator for the companies at the 29 West Coast ports warned that waterfronts that have been plagued by severe cargo congestion in recent months were nearing the point of complete gridlock.

The companies have repeatedly accused the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, which represents 20,000 dockworkers, of deliberating orchestrating work slowdowns at the ports to gain leverage in contract negotiations that have dragged on for nine months

The union denies this and faulted the carriers themselves for the congestion, citing numerous changes in shipping practices as contributing factors.

The union also has downplayed the magnitude of the congestion, suggesting that management was exaggerating a crisis as a late-hour negotiation ploy.

Our local West Seattle Blog has been following the (lack of) progress between the PMA and ILWU.  The WSB reported on two days of horrible traffic between West Seattle and downtown, which was caused by a backlog of trucks crowding the surface streets around Terminal 18.  The following day, the traffic had returned to normal.  From an outisder’s perspective, it seemed that the drivers of Seattle had been used as a pawn in the match between PMA and ILWU.

(Photo by James Bratsanos)

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Why CNAs and Home Health Aides Should Care about the Fight over a Federal Regulation

Today’s post comes from guest author Jon Rehm, from Rehm, Bennett & Moore.

A U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., recently struck down a federal regulation that would mandate that home health aides are paid the minimum wage and paid overtime under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Though the decision will likely be appealed, this decision is still a bad decision for the men and women who do the hardest jobs in health care – home health aides and certified nursing assistants.

Why home health aides aren’t covered by federal wage laws

Home health aides were exempted from the FLSA 40 years ago in order to make caring for the elderly less expensive. However, companion care has become a big and very profitable business. An index of publically traded home-health-care stocks has consistently outperformed the stock market as a whole for the last 13 years. This profitably is due in part to the minimum wage and overtime exemptions for home health aides.

How the home health exception affects other jobs in the medical field

The federal government estimates that nearly 1 million are employed as home health aides, while private sources estimate that number as 2 million. Home health is also a fast-growing field of employment. Home health aides essentially have the same job duties as certified nursing assistants (CNAs). CNAs are generally covered by minimum wage and overtime laws, but workers with the same skills and same duties are exempt from those laws if they are working as home health aides. CNA wages are pushed down by home health aide wages, which are exempt from federal wage laws.

Why pay is about more than wages

A recent study of CNAs showed that nearly 60 percent of CNAs report injuries during a 12-month period. The injury rate is similar for home health aides. The study also showed that higher-paid CNAs were injured less frequently than lower-paid CNAs. The study indicated that organizational factors really drove injury rates among CNAs. In other words, in settings where CNAs are truly valued, paid fairly and trained, the injury rates are lower. But if CNAs are treated as low-wage, high-turnover cogs in a machine, then injury rates are higher. Low pay for CNAs and home health aides isn’t just an issue for employees. Low pay for home health aides and CNAs has been linked to poor patient care.

While the Obama administration has been criticized for being too aggressive in enforcing the FLSA, the U.S. Department of Labor announced that they will delay enforcement of the home health aide regulation until July 2015. This assumes courts will let the Department of Labor actually enforce the regulation. Anyone concerned about this issue should contact their members of Congress to support legislation that ends the home health aide exception. People should also contact their state legislators to support legislation that would ensure that home health aides are covered by state wage and hour laws.

Barking dog could cost Seattle family their home

Today’s post was shared by The Workers’ Injury Law & Advocacy Group and comes from news.yahoo.com

Like bullies and illnesses, lawsuits can be ignored, but they won’t go away. Denise Norton learned this valuable lesson the hard way this week when she found out that a lawsuit she has tried to ignore could wind up costing Norton her North Seattle home.

Her neighbor Woodrow Thompson filed a lawsuit alleging that the sound of barking from Norton’s dog, Cawper, was intentionally causing him “profound emotional distress.” In his detailed, 36-page complaint, Thompson claimed that the canine’s “raucously, wildly bellowing, howling and explosively barking” was capable of reaching 128 decibels. For context, the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration — the Labor Department agency tasked with enforcing safe working conditions — says a person should not be exposed to a noise of 115 decibels for more than 15 minutes a day. That said, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Noise Meter, Thompson’s claim would mean that Cawper’s bark is louder than an ambulance siren and just slightly softer than a jet engine at takeoff.

“In my head, everything was so bogus that he’d been doing, I don’t know why, I just didn’t think it was real or something,” Norton told the local ABC News affiliate, KOMO-TV. That’s why, even when she was served with papers, Norton simply didn’t respond.

Unfortunately for Norton, however, the suit was very real, and because…

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Medical Procedures: What do they cost?

Today’s post comes from guest author Leonard Jernigan, from The Jernigan Law Firm.

Blue Cross Blue Shield has created an online pricing tool to help patients compare prices of about 1,200 non-emergency medical procedures. Patients can now search for the best financial deal for services offered within North Carolina.

 By exposing this previously undisclosed information, patients are now able to go and see services according to the databases average procedure costs. The pricing tool also reveals the most expensive and most affordable option for each procedure.

In order to look up costs and doctors available to preform your procedure, you first access the pricing tool at: http://www.bcbsnc.com/content/providersearch/treatments/index.htm#/ . Then, you enter the treatment or service you would like in the first blank, your current location, and how many miles you are willing to travel for the service. Once you have entered all of this information, you just click search and your results will be immediately displayed. You can organize your results by cost, provider name, or distance.

 

To see the original article by John Murawski in The News and Observer explaining the pricing tool, click below:

http://www.newsobserver.com/2015/01/31/4516241_blue-cross-pricing-tool-could.html#storylink=misearch

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File a Workers’ Comp Claim – Get Fired

Today’s post comes from guest author Thomas Domer, from The Domer Law Firm.

A new study from the Workers Compensation Research Institute (WCRI) indicates trust or mistrust in the work relationship plays a significant role in the outcome of a workers’ compensation claim.  In a recent benchmark study in Iowa by WCRI, almost four out of ten workers interviewed reported they were concerned they would be fired or laid off after they were injured. 

The Iowa study reflects similar results in Wisconsin and other benchmark states.  All workers who were interviewed received workers’ comp benefits and experienced more than a week of lost work time.  Additional findings noted two-thirds of the injured Iowa workers had other health conditions (having smoked for ten years or had diabetes or lung conditions).  Obviously those with significant pre-existing conditions had predictably worse results.

The Human Cost of the Military’s Toxic Burn Pits

Today’s post was shared by Gelman on Workplace Injuries and comes from medium.com

Today’s post is shared from medium.com and is authored by Matthew Gault.

Jason Dawson joined the Marines in 2003 and went to Iraq in 2006. He deployed to Al Asad air base in Anbar province where he was part of a crash, fire and rescue team.

When his tour finished, he stayed and became a civilian contractor—a firefighter.

He liked the pay and the work, but he didn’t like the burn pits. Al Asad maintained a large, open-air ditch filled with burning garbage. It’s how the base disposed of all its waste.

“Some mornings I remember waking up … and I could smell the burn pits,” he says.

Dawson stayed in Al Asad for three years, and the whole time he dealt with toxic fumes. Since coming home, he’s developed several mysterious health problems doctors can’t seem to diagnose.

Dawson—who is a personal friend—is not alone. Thousands of returning soldiers and civilians reported various health problems after coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan. Many suspect prolonged exposure to the burn pits are the cause.

What didn’t help is that the military’s efforts to clean up the burn pits were half-hearted at best, and negligent at worst. That’s the conclusion of a new report from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.

In the report, the congressionally-mandated watchdog details taxpayer cash wasted trying to close the Pentagon’s burn pits.

But worse than the monetary waste is how…

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Will Protects Children, Assets, and Helps Prepare for the Unexpected

Today’s post comes from guest author Rod Rehm, from Rehm, Bennett & Moore.

Occasionally I write about topics that I think are of use to readers of the firm’s blog. Today’s focus is on a blog post that lawyer Andrew Hoffman wrote about preparing for the unexpected by writing a will.

The blog post was written to promote a new start in 2015 by reflecting on the importance of estate planning. Although estate planning is not a topic that many folks enjoy discussing, I wanted to encourage you to read this blog post from Krotter Hoffman PC, LLO, a law firm in northeast Nebraska. One of the best quotes in the blog post is this one: “The people that can least afford a will (they think), are actually the same people that need it the most – parents of young children.”

Please make the time for a will, even if you don’t think you have much to pass on to loved ones. Because, as Mr. Hoffman goes on to explain, if a person doesn’t have a will, then a judge will decide who takes care of your minor children. And whatever assets you have will also go to those minor children the moment each turns 19, regardless of their ability to manage those funds, which may include life insurance proceeds.

This information is also helpful to workers’ compensation clients or anyone who has received a lump sum settlement to plan for what happens to that money if something happens to you. Please follow up with an attorney to write your will, be safe, and take care. 

Here’s a link to the original blog post:

http://www.krotterhoffman.com/#!A-New-Years-Resolution-Worth-Keeping/cutx/DC0CE14C-2B60-4E65-80F6-82C6560E60F5 titled: A New Year’s Resolution Worth Keeping.

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Kettle Falls, WA Cedar Mill Fined More Than $150,000 for Safety Violations

Today’s post comes from guest author Kit Case, from Causey Law Firm.

Kettle Falls cedar mill fined more than $150,000 for safety violations in connection with worker injury

The Columbia Cedar mill in Kettle Falls has been fined $151,800 for safety violations after a worker was seriously hurt while trying to clear bark from a hopper.

The Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) cited the employer for one willful violation and 28 serious violations of workplace safety regulations.

The willful violation involved multiple instances of employees working in close proximity to exposed and unguarded chain sprockets on chain conveyors, a hazard that can cause permanent disabling injuries. The one willful violation carries a penalty of $52,000.

L&I initiated the inspection after learning that in June 2014 an employee had suffered a serious injury and was hospitalized after becoming entangled in a rotating shaft meant to move bark in the back of a hopper. The investigation found the equipment had no guarding installed to protect employees.

Along with the willful citation, the employer was cited for several serious violations related to machine/equipment guarding, and for not ensuring “lock-out/tag-out” procedures were used to prevent machinery from starting up or moving during service or maintenance by workers.

There were several additional serious violations involving fall/overhead hazards, hand-held tools, personal protective equipment and forklift training.

The employer was also cited for failing to report the hospitalization of an injured worker. By law, all employers are required to report to L&I within eight hours any time a worker is hospitalized or dies due to work-related causes.

A willful violation can be issued when L&I has evidence of plain indifference, a substitution of judgment or an intentional disregard to a hazard or rule. A serious violation exists in a workplace if there is a substantial probability that worker death or serious physical harm could result from a hazardous condition.

The employer has 15 working days to appeal the citation, and has notified L&I that it plans on doing so. Penalty money paid as a result of a citation is placed in the workers’ compensation supplemental pension fund, helping workers and families of those who have died on the job.